The beginning of the 2015/2016 school year is the rallying point for some of the U.S. potato industry’s newest marketing plans and campaigns. The United States Potato Board (USPB) School Nutrition Program has officially launched to reach the 55.5 million strong, and growing, school students who are part of the “Salad Generation.” This youngest generation, a cohort stretching from newborns to age 23, represents the next generation of potato consumers, and makes up about 32 percent of the U.S. population. Where better to reach, teach and instruct the salad generation about the health and nutrition of potatoes than in their schools where 5 billion meals are served annually?
The USPB School Nutrition Program is a new initiative that will fulfill a major role within the USPB’s Marketing Program and will be led by Meredith Myers, USPB Global Nutrition Marketing Manager. The objective is straightforward: to increase healthy potato offerings at schools. Ultimately, this new direction will drive new and exciting uses of U.S. potatoes on school meals.
This new campaign was kicked off at the School Nutrition Association’s 69th Annual National Conference last month in Salt Lake City, where 2,300 school nutrition and foodservice professionals, and some of the most influential voices and key decision makers for school district menus, were in attendance. The centerpiece of the USPB booth was a Farmers’ Market salad bar, which was merchandised each day with a different theme, and the featured potato dish was sampled (Smokey Chipotle Potato Salad, Creamy Buttermilk Ranch Potato Salad and French Dijon Potato Salad).
“Hundreds of school foodservice professionals stopped to talk about Potatoes Raise the Bar,” Myers explained. “They love potatoes. Their kids love potatoes. So, they are eager to get more information about how potatoes can boost meal participation and increase consumption of vegetable in their schools.”
The USPB hired Ketchum Communications, an agency with extensive experience in school foodservice marketing to help reach this new, young, target consumer. The team includes Garrett Berdan, Chef and Registered Dietitian, a well-known, highly respected consultant in this market. The school nutrition program will provide useful resources and tools to school foodservice professionals:
- Online toolkit (PotatoesRaiseTheBar.com)
- Flavorful and innovative recipes
- Merchandising for salad bars and the cafeteria
- Nutrition information and handouts
- A blog dedicated to showcasing how schools are using potatoes to raise the bar on their meals
- Monthly e-newsletters
Information from a USPB-facilitated pilot study to gauge how a school with all the USPB merchandising and information and an industry-donated salad bar might use potatoes differently on their menus.
The USPB School Nutrition Program supports the industry’s Potato Friendly Salad Bar Challenge, which was unveiled by USPB President and CEO Blair Richardson at POTATO EXPO 2015 in Orlando, FL, earlier this year. The salad bar challenge is a U.S. potato industry initiative to connect more kids to healthy potato meals in school lunch programs across the nation. As of August 5, 22 salad bars had been donated as a result of the industry’s challenge.
Students in grades K-12 eat over 5 billion school lunches each year, and one more serving of potatoes equates to 3,750,000 cwt FWE. For every salad bar donated, the USPB plans to match the donation. Sign up today and join the challenge or email questions to email@example.com.
For more information on the USPB as the nation’s potato marketing organization, positioned as the “catalyst for positive change,” and the central organizing force in implementing programs that will increase demand for potatoes, please visit www.uspotatoes.com. In an effort to enhance diversity of the Board, USDA encourages women, younger growers, minorities, and people with disabilities to seek positions on the board.